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GIBS team wins Business Education Innovation award for gamifying soft skills for business

A gamified enabled learning programme for the enhancement of soft skills for business, developed by a team at the University of Pretoria's Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) has won an award at the Business Education Innovation Awards by LearnSpace, Paris.

GIBS was one of 153 participants selected from 85 business schools in 32 countries, including South Africa, France, Belgium, Switzerland, and the United States. Finalists used gamification to guide students through learning processes, allowing them to engage with content, overcome self-doubt, and put what they had learned into practice in a safe and constructive setting.

LearnSpace sought nominations for world-class educational innovations from business schools across the globe. Its goal was to find innovative techniques, understand how they were applied in business schools, and subsequently issue a public, global report highlighting ten of them. LearnSpace is a learning innovation hub based in Paris, that specialises in digital transformation and educational innovation strategies for universities and business schools.

Hayley Pearson, Riette Ackerman, Danhesree Moodley, Estelle Drysdale and Professor Margie Sutherland created a game-based training programme to enable new graduates and young people to become competent, accountable, imaginative, and self-managing leaders. The game, called Differentiate, required students to complete 40 custom market demand and trends tasks in the duration of the programme. As the students progressed through the game and completed different levels, they were awarded badges and gained points for task completion. The points were then converted into coins which could be used to 'purchase' different things including lunch with a CEO or the Dean amongst other things.

Commenting on the win, Executive Director: Faculty and the Director of the MBA programme at GIBS, Hayley Pearson said, "It is an honour to receive this recognition on behalf of the school. When we created the programme, we were looking to build something that would challenge, motivate and maintain engagement amongst students."

The programme focused on improving students' effectiveness in the workplace and included two noteworthy innovations:

  • an integrated virtual workplace learning experience; and
  • the use of game-based learning (gamification) to drive students through a series of exercises to help them gain workplace skills.

Pearson highlights that simulations on the programme required students to work closely with others, provide feedback to their peers, seek information outside of core content, and address complex issues resulting from South Africa's context. Students earned points for completing tasks, some tailored to their own particular interests, and progress through the game.

Pearson urges educators to try incorporating game-based learning into the classroom as it typically simulates real-life scenarios and helps students build important life skills. "It doesn't have to cost a lot of money and there's a lot of different ways to engage learners through gamified processes. It changes the pace, and drives motivation." 

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